Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Awards $4.4 Million for Sickle Cell Research

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has announced $4.4 million in grants for research projects with the potential to accelerate breakthroughs in the treatment of sickle cell disease — an often painful and life-shortening genetic blood disorder that affects one in four hundred African Americans.

Awarded through the foundation's medical research program, the grants are the product of a 2011 competition for the Doris Duke Innovations in Clinical Research Award (ICRA), which invited proposals for cutting-edge clinical research on sickle cell anemia. Nine projects will each receive $486,000 over three years.

The winning projects seek to develop new therapies and/or increase understanding of how to treat the debilitating symptoms that accompany sickle cell disease. The investigators come from a wide variety of fields, including adult and pediatric hematology, nephrology, radiation oncology, and pathology. Projects include the development of a human model for red-cell sickling using induced stem cells, correcting the sickle cell gene defect using nanotechnology, and identifying DNA markers to better match donors for transfusions, the primary treatment for sickle cell disease complications.

"We are pleased to support these exciting projects, which have the potential to improve the lives of patients with sickle cell disease and advance our knowledge of other genetic diseases," said Betsy Myers, director of DDCF's medical research program. "While the clinical characteristics and the genetic basis of this disease have been known for decades, few advances have been made in its treatment or the prevention of its life-threatening complications. With no widely available cure, we believe that new research into this disorder merits this investment."